1) When you went to school at San Francisco State University, what inspired you to decide to study abroad in Beijing? Why not somewhere else? What inspired you to study abroad in the first place?
Having grown up in Korea town in L.A. I was exposed to East Asian culture from a young age: the food, the kung fu movies, the whole deal. I even used to take the train down to China Town as a kid and pick up Samurai swords and little Buddha statues, so Beijing seemed like a natural option for me. I think what really did it for me though was the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing; seeing all those people choreographed perfectly in sync I found awe-inspiring. And at the time of choosing a study abroad destination (my freshman year) I was an Econ major and all I kept hearing was how Mandarin was going to be the new international language, so it just made sense to me.
2) You mentioned how you met up with people from all different places around the world when you studied abroad. You also traveled all around Indochina. What is one unique thing you experienced that you hadn’t expected?
I would say the most unique experience I had that I really didn’t see coming was my Christmas in Beijing. Having people wish you a Merry Christmas in Mandarin was already unique enough, but spending it with my collection of friends; the Swedes, Australians, Norwegians, Scots, and local Beijingers really took the cake. Hot spiced Swedish wine, pickled Scandinavian fish, British cracker jacks, trivia games, and chinese liquor–it was crazy! The Swedes celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, so we essentially had two Christmases, I loved it!
3) List 5 tips for studying abroad.
- Everything takes longer than you think it will, even a task as simple as going to the bank or grocery store can be taxing in a different language or culture.
- Always have copies of things: passports, transcripts, driver licenses, school IDs. You would be surprised how many copies some institutions require.
- Check, and then double check, which classes are transferable BEFORE you leave!
- Dont be to surprised when they still don’t end up being transferable..
- Don’t take core classes if you can avoid it; you are there to study, but you’re also there to explore, don’t forget that. There’s nothing wrong with taking electives or a few classes credit/no credit.
4) What advice can you give student travelers, or aspiring travelers who feel like they just don’t have the time or money to travel?
Look around and get involved. Check out your university’s study abroad options. Many places offer summer or winter exchange options for a few weeks to a month. Alternatively check out some volunteer organizations like International Student Volunteers; it may not be free but they offer great ways to fund-raise by getting your friends and family involved and excited about your upcoming trip. Make friends with the foreign students currently studying at your university; you may not have time or money now, but having a network of friends around the globe is sure to save you time and money when you finally do end up traveling.
5) Having studied in both Bejing and Australia, and traveled all around those areas, what is next on your list? As a senior in college, you’re looking forward to graduation–are you also looking toward travel?
Well I recently declared a Special Major in Southeast Asian Culture and Geo-Politics, so hopefully the major title alone will be enough to get me back to Asia. I am intrigued how the geography, culture, history, and political systems of South Asia have lead to it now being the new center of global trade and development- this is the Asian Century after all. So yes, I think my first move is going back to Asia. I still have a few friends in China so I think that might be a good place to start. This may seem a bit far flung or sound like a going out on a whim, and I very well may be, but there is an ancient Chinese proverb about an invisible red thread which gives me hope. It translates to something like,”An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.”
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